How to help teenagers quit vaping

Parents and educators are discovering that, unfortunately, there are no established protocols to help teenagers quit vaping. But there are measures parents can take.

You just found your child’s empty vaping pods. Now what?

Don’t panic. Also, don’t go ballistic. Before you confront, educate yourself.

What are good resources?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a useful website: cdc.gov/tobaccom. The Tobacco Prevention Toolkit, med.stanford.edu/tobaccopreventiontoolkit.html, by researchers at Stanford, has a major unit on vaping and Juuls, the most popular brand of e-cigarettes.

Now that I’ve got some facts, what’s next?

Try to see e-cigarettes from the perspective of teenagers. They know that on the scale of all things forbidden, lots of substances — prescription and street drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, to name a few — rank far higher than vapes.

While adolescents are canny enough to hide their Juuls from you, they don’t really believe that vaping is harmful.

So if you unleash an angry outburst, they will likely push back, thinking you are making a big deal over nothing.

Also realize that the defensiveness and fibbing you’re hearing may not be just a child reacting to being caught. Your teenager may be addicted to nicotine.

How do I reason with a teenage vaper?

“The trick is not to try to scare them, because scare tactics don’t work at this point,” said Dr. Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, a Yale professor of psychiatry who focuses on adolescent behaviors and tobacco products. “But explaining how these products are making them addicted is the way to go.”

Try to get them to recognize the compulsive quality of their behavior. Show them what researchers know about nicotine addiction and the questions they are raising about the possible long-term harms of vaping.

Are all teenagers who try vaping likely to become addicted?

Not necessarily. Some people can smoke one cigarette and have a glass of wine at a party — and that’s it. But nicotine addiction can happen swiftly and is extremely hard to extinguish.

If there is a family history of addiction, or if other family members are using addictive substances like alcohol, tobacco or drugs at home, a teenager’s vulnerability ratchets up.

Teenagers with anxiety or depression can also succumb more quickly. And, doctors note, withdrawing from nicotine can also set off anxiety and depression, at least temporarily.

What’s the best way to quit?

Unfortunately, even the experts aren’t sure.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help redirect thoughts when cravings hit. Talk therapy can address underlying anxiety or depression, which may be related to the reason the teen is vaping or have been triggered by quitting.

Other activities can calm an agitated mind in withdrawal, especially yoga, meditation and sports. A teenager can renew acquaintance with a passionate interest or hobby that might have fallen away.

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